Wednesday 1 October.
The WiFi turned out to be really very good and after downloading the newspaper we lay in bed and listened to the news on Radio4 from the BBC. There was no hurry at all today and we had a leisurely breakfast before getting ready to walk into Besancon. Before leaving Moira booked us in for another night.
On the way we went to the Carrefour supermarket and checked if they Camping Gaz canisters. After searching all the shelves we asked an assistant who whizzed along the aisles on rollerblades ahead of us. The Gaz was tucked away at the bottom of the shelf we had walked past. Now that we were able to get a supply there was no need to search around Besancon. On our way now we followed the Cicerone instructions that I had copied out before leaving. The route it gave coincided with the VF waymarked route into the city. At first we thought it was going to be beside a busy main road all the way but at the first roundabout we turned into a quiet street and through some nice peaceful suburbs. We noticed the buses coming and going to the city and it was the No 20 for Valentin that we wanted when we returned. Our way into Besancon also more or less stuck with this bus route.
We took it easy and just strolled along with only about 8km to do and no pack on our backs. Our fleeces were still wet after washing them last night so we wore our rain jackets. They soon came off as it turned very warm and we were beginning to sweat. Soon we were reaching the busy city centre with the railway station and double carriageway roads criss-crossing. It wasn't particularly attractive until we dropped down to cross the River Le Doubs by the Pont Denfert Rochereau. It was a lovely wide river which seemed to be an oxbow loop with the old city in the middle. Moira had got a street map from the hotel before we left so we found our way about easily enough. Firstly it was to the Tourist Info office and the signs took us round to the Rue de la Republique a nice broad street with some very nice buildings and shops. At the top in a large square dominated by the impressive Hotel de Ville we found it. The woman was very helpful and promised when we returned tomorrow, with the places where we wanted to stay in the first two stops on our walk, she would phone and make reservations. She stamped our credentials and supplied us with a map for the VF in this area and a comprehensive accommodation list.
When we left it was along the Grand Rue towards the Cathedral. On the way there was another church, Eglise Saint-Maurice. It was open and we visited a fairly plain interior but with a few nice windows. Inside was comparatively small compared with its large frontage. We continued up the Grand Rue with some mansions dating back to 16th Century. The road wound its way upward through the Porte Noir, the Black Gate, a Roman triumphal arch erected about 175 AD at the southern entrance to the city. The original architecture and sculptures were basically intact. On the other side of the archway was the Cathedral Saint-Jean, early construction work dating from the 12th century. The windows, the paintings, pillars and arches, vaulted roof were magnificent but what stood out was the spectrum of colours projected on the walls and pillars as the sunlight was scattered through the decorated windows.
From the Cathedral the road climbed steeply to the Citadelle which we planned to visit tomorrow but now we came to a view point near the top and got an outstanding panorama of the city below. We could see the river as it bent round with some nice old bridges and other modern ones that seemed out of place in their design. We made our way down to the river by a series of stairways, they appeared to go down forever and hadn't realised how high we had climbed this morning. At the bottom there was a footpath that followed along the riverside. A few river cruisers were moored at the banks and one was from a hire company on the Saone, so there must be a connection between the Saone and Le Doubs rivers. Further along there were some canoeists going for a paddle on the river. The unusual feature was how they got launched; they sat in the canoe on the river bank which was about 3 metres above the water and were pushed off. The canoe landed with a bang on the water and they were away. The woman at the Tourist Office gave us directions for the bus station and for a supermarket, they were both just up from the river at different bridges. We checked out the bus terminus first at the Pont de la Republique and there was machine for obtaining a ticket for an hour's travel. We then headed for the bridge where we came over the river earlier and found the supermarket. With lunch we headed for a bench in a nearby park. Today for a change we had a tin of sardines in tomato sauce, we spread it on bread and washed it down with a beer. We were sitting in the sun and now it was very warm, you would think we would be used to it after years in the South African heat but no, it was too hot and we moved to a branch in the shade.
As we had decided that this wasn't a rest day having walked 8 km at least, then we were going to have another day off tomorrow and come back to see more. Because of this extra day we said we had enough for one day and headed for the bus back to the hotel. Moira managed to get the tickets from the machine and there was a bus, No 20, waiting for us at the stop. It did go back along a lot of the route we had walked this morning and the terminus was at the supermarket. Moira went in to do some shopping while I went back to the hotel and had a cup of coffee. While I was stretched out on the bed relaxing with my drink the cleaner arrived to do the room. I had to go out to the tables out front where the smokers congregate and sit there. By the time Moira got back from the supermarket the cleaning was finished.
The decision was to have a picnic dinner in the room and we had roast chicken, cold slaw and tomato, a yoghurt and an apple. There was also a bottle of red plonk. We spoke to both Suzanne and Margaret on FaceTime. Hollie was having her bath and enjoying herself slashing about and with the bubbles. In Cardiff, Ewan showed us all the drawings he had done and Rhys has really grown in the few weeks since we saw him last. Later I posted my blog using the hotel WiFi and it went fast, photos and all. The rest of the evening was spent reading and listening to the radio via the Internet.